Judge: Mo. funeral protests ban unconstitutional

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - A federal judge says Missouri's ban on protests at funerals is unconstitutional.

Monday's ruling affects restrictions targeting a Kansas church whose members have picketed outside service members' funerals. The church contends the deaths are God's punishment for the U.S. tolerating homosexuality.

Missouri's law bars protests near any funeral, procession or memorial service from an hour before until an hour after the service. A complementary law specifically states protesters must stay back at least 300 feet.

But Judge Fernando Gaitan (geye-TAN') ruled says the ban infringes on free speech rights.

The U.S. Supreme Court last year refused to step into Missouri's appeal of a court order barring it from enforcing the ban while a lawsuit against it was ongoing.

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